The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2023

The versatile Kokopelli Moki I Inflatable Kayak earned our top pick.

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Best Inflatable Kayaks Tout

Amazon and Backcountry

Want the freedom to explore waterways on your own time but lack the storage space? Inflatable kayaks, many of which pack down smaller than a suitcase, could be a solution. Blow-up kayaks are often much lighter and more affordable than their hard-shell counterparts, too. 

There are plenty of inflatable kayaks to choose from, with options varying based on budget, portability, and intended use. All things considered, the Kokopelli Moki I Inflatable Kayak earned our top pick. This sturdy model packs a wealth of features to navigate varied conditions and transport loads of cargo. Other inflatable kayaks are designed for paddling alongside friends, touring the ocean, or taking on rough waters, so read on to find the best option for you.

These are the best kayaks for your adventures on the water.

Best Overall

Kokopelli Moki I Inflatable Kayak

Kokopelli Moki I Inflatable Kayak

Courtesy of Kokopelli

Why We Love It: This versatile kayak boasts customizable features, durable materials, and easy assembly. 

What to Consider: A spray skirt must be purchased separately to integrate with the removable spray deck. 

Founded in 2014, Kokopelli Packraft is a relative newcomer to the kayak game. Among the competition and Kokopelli’s five inflatable models, the Moki I Inflatable stands out for its versatile use, user-friendliness, and quality construction. At 12 feet long, this narrow inflatable kayak handles well on lakes, rivers, and coastal waterways. A removable spray deck comes in handy when paddling in rough conditions and inclement weather. The inflatable floor is bolstered by a rigid drop-stitch material for greater stability and durability. With a generous max weight capacity of 500 pounds, the Moki I is a nearly universal fit for solo paddlers and packing in loads of gear. The intuitive design and color scheme make it clear where to attach the seat, footholds, and fin. And when you’re done for the day, simply pull the drain plug, detach the aforementioned components, and deflate for a packed size of 31 x 20 x 8 inches. The complementary Moki carrying bag, which can be wheeled or worn as a backpack, provides easy transport. 

Price at time of publish: $799

Dimensions: 12 x 2.9 feet | Packed weight: 34.6 pounds | Inflation method: Hand pump

Best Overall, Runner-up

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Sport

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Sport

Courtesy of Moosejaw

Why We Love It: This sleek inflatable model delivers excellent handling and strong durability in a conventional hard-shell kayak design. 

What to Consider: It doesn’t have a drain valve, increasing the likelihood of water pooling in the cockpit. 

Many inflatable kayaks run on the bulky side, but not the AdvancedFrame Sport. The built-in aluminum hull creates the defined shape of a traditional kayak, which gives this inflatable model superior tracking and handling. Considerable puncture protection is afforded by three layers of material, including a tough waterproof fabric shell. In the rare event of a tear, a total of seven inflatable chambers keeps the boat buoyant and help ensure a single leak doesn’t result in catastrophe. With a max weight capacity of 300 pounds, the AdvancedFrame Sports isn’t suited for all paddlers and falls short of the Moki I’s 500-pound limit. Although it’s spray skirt compatible, the lack of a drain valve raises concerns of water collecting in the cockpit. 

Price at time of publish: $550

Dimensions: 10.4 x 2.6 feet | Packed weight: 26 pounds | Inflation method: 12-volt electric pump recommended (not included)

Best Budget

Intex Challenger Kayak Inflatable Set

Intex Challenger Kayak Inflatable Set

Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: This easy-to-assemble kayak affords fun on the water at a very accessible price point. 

What to Consider: The limited weight capacity and storage space make this kayak best for casual recreational use. 

Saving a buck is not the only selling point for the Intex Challenger K1. This inflatable kayak includes some quality features, such as a grab line for security, cargo net for storage, and removable skeg for better tracking. It also comes with a paddle and pump, adding further value to this bargain find. The Challenger K1 is constructed with tough vinyl that’ll sustain frequent use. The kayak's three inflatable components — an I-beam floor and two side chambers — provide solid buoyancy and stability. But with a maximum weight capacity of 220 pounds, this kayak has limitations for hauling gear and larger paddlers. 

Price at time of publish: $108

Dimensions: 9 x 2.5 x 1.08 feet | Packed weight: 28.3 pounds | Inflation method: Hand pump

Related: The Best Sunglasses for Every Trip

Best for Camping

Sea Eagle 3-Person Inflatable Kayak

Why We Love It: The movable seats and a generous weight capacity let you pile on plenty of camping gear. 

What to Consider: It isn’t self-bailing and only has a single drain plug, making it less adept for choppier waters. 

Paddling out to a campsite adds to the adventure, but packing up gear and provisions while staying buoyant can be challenging. The Sea Eagle 370 Pro, with a weight capacity of 650 pounds, can accommodate lots of cargo or several passengers. The kayak’s two seats can be easily moved within the 12.5-foot boat or detached, allowing solo paddlers to position themselves around their camping gear. While weighted down, the bow and stern spray deck help cast off waves and keep cargo dry. Other useful features include two skegs for enhanced tracking and bow and stern grab lines, which come in handy for capsizing or securely attaching gear to the boat. The 370 Pro comes with a foot pump, paddles, and storage bag included. 

Price at time of publish: $295

Dimensions: 12.5 x 2.8 feet | Packed weight: 32 pounds | Inflation method: Foot pump

Best for Fishing

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak

Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: This kayak delivers quality comfort, ample storage, and fishing gear compatibility for a long day of angling. 

What to Consider: The outer shell materials aren’t suited for rougher waters. 

The Intex Excursion Pro K1 incorporates a host of features and specs for fishing on open water. Fitted with two detachable rod holders and a detachable phone mount, this kayak makes alternating between paddling and hands-free fishing a breeze. Additional storage is available in the bow and stern, where gear can be tucked away or secured with stainless steel D-rings. Tim Ryan, Owner of Fishing Fanatiks, emphasizes the importance of extra stability for fishing kayaks. “Inflatable fishing kayaks are often wider than conventional kayaks, making them more stable, which is important when casting a line or reeling in a trophy fish,” says Ryan. At 3 feet wide, the Excursion Pro K1’s stability is further enhanced by high-pressure inflation and sturdy PVC materials. And thanks to an adjustable bucket seat and mounted footrests, anglers can count on ample support. 

Price at time of publish: $225

Dimensions: 10 x 3 x 1.5 feet | Packed weight: 37.3 pounds | Inflation method: Pump

Most Lightweight

Advanced Elements PackLite Kayak

Advanced Elements PackLite Kayak

Courtesy of Cabela's

Why We Love It: This featherweight kayak is incredibly portable and packs down to a convenient size to stow in a backpack.  

What to Consider: The minimalist design is lacking comfort features, like a cushioned seat or footrests. 

The Advanced Elements PackLite Inflatable Kayak is lightweight and compact enough to take on any trip. The kayak packs down to 11 x 11 x 5 inches, allowing it to easily fit in a backpack for camping or suitcase for air travel. And at just 4 pounds, it’s unlikely to slow you down on the trail or put you over the weight limit for your checked luggage. The kayak’s Twistlok valve system makes it easy to inflate the three chambers. Once set up, the mesh carrying bag conveniently functions as a storage sack for gear. Pairing this kayak with the collapsible Ultralite Pack Paddle and PackLite Foot Pump adds just 2.5 pounds more in weight for a 7-pound kayaking system. 

Price at time of publish: $330

Dimensions: 7.8 x 2.9 feet | Packed weight: 4 pounds |  Inflation method: Foot or hand pump

Related: The 13 Best Stand-up Paddle Boards

Best for Multiple People

Aquaglide Deschutes 145 Kayak

Aquaglide Deschutes 145 Kayak

Courtesy of Backcountry

Why We Love It: This spacious open-deck kayak can easily accommodate multiple paddlers, gear, and pets. 

What to Consider: Though the plunger-style valve makes for easy inflation, it requires keeping track of an adapter. 

Whether tandem cruising or loading up for a camping trip, the Aquaglide Deschutes 145 offers ample space and comfort. The Deschutes 145 is crafted from welded Duratex PVC, adding durability while keeping this inflatable model relatively lightweight at 25 pounds. It comes with two cushioned seats with adjustable backrests, but with a weight capacity of 600 pounds, squeezing in a small child or furry friend into the 14.5-foot kayak is feasible. Bungees on the deck and bow help pack in plenty of gear. Assembly is quick and straightforward, with velcro strips indicating where to place the seats and four chambers to inflate after unfolding. To inflate, twist the plunger valves to the closed position and plug in the adaptor included in the repair kit. After paddling, simply turn the valves to release the air and fold up to stash away in the backpack-style storage bag. 

Price at time of publish: $850

Dimensions: 14.5 x 3.2feet | Packed weight: 34 pounds | Inflation method: Pump (not included)

Best Ocean

Sea Eagle 420x Explorer Kayak

Sea Eagle 420x Explorer Kayak

Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: The self-bailing system and durable materials make this our seaworthy pick.

What to Consider: Manual inflation takes a considerable amount of time and effort. 

The Sea Eagle 420x Explorer builds on the 370 Pro’s solid specs with greater durability, an extra 18 inches in length, and an even greater weight capacity of 855 pounds. The tandem model also incorporates 16 self-bailing drain valves to quickly jet out any water taken on board. The Explorer’s hull is constructed with 1,000-denier reinforced fabric and the floor has solid air pressure with a PSI of 3.2. These combine for a very rigid design, the lack of which can be a concern with inflatable kayaks. The spacious cockpit can hold up to three passengers, while bungees on the front and rear can accommodate extra gear. The removable skeg adds greater tracking on open water, or you can swap it out for whitewater paddling, as the Explorer is suited for up to Class IV rapids. 

Price at time of publish: $1,169

Dimensions: 14 x 3.25 feet  | Packed weight: 44 pounds | Inflation method: Hand pump

Best Pedal

Hobie Mirage iTrek 14 Duo Kayak

Hobie Mirage iTrek 14 Duo Kayak

Courtesy of Next Adventure

Why We Love It: This zippy pedal kayak is packed with features and includes a wheeled storage bag. 

What to Consider: The kayak’s low profile and sit-on-top design leave paddlers exposed to waves and the elements.

The Hobie Mirage iTrek 14 Duo offers excellent performance and durability for an inflatable model. The kayak features Hobie’s signature MirageDrive with Glide Technology, delivering speed and efficiency. Breathable mesh seats, cupholders, and a grippy EVA standing pad enhance comfort and security to stand up and stretch. For greater customization, the removable hand rudder system can be fitted on either side to accommodate left and right-handed passengers. Though it’s the heaviest inflatable kayak on the list, the iTrek 14 Duo weighs less than most other pedaling models. It also packs down to a wheeled storage bag with dimensions of 43.3 x 24.6 x 23.6 inches to easily fit in a car trunk or closet. The sit-on-top design and hands-free paddling make iTrek 14 Duo a suitable fishing kayak, but the lack of integrated angling features falls short of the Intex Excursion Pro. 

 Price at time of publish: $4,199

Dimensions: 13.6 x 3.6 feet | Packed weight: 73 pounds  |  Inflation method: Includes both electric and hand pumps

Related: The Best Inflatable Paddle Boards, Tested and Reviewed

Best Whitewater

Aire Outfitter I Inflatable Kayak

Aire Outfitter I Inflatable Kayak

Courtesy of Aire

Why We Love It: With great stability and a self-bailing floor, this inflatable kayak lets you explore rough waters with confidence.

What to Consider: It’s wider than other whitewater models, sacrificing some maneuverability for added stability. 

When paddling rapids, durability and stability are essential. The Aire Outfitter I delivers both. The thick 12.5-inch side tubes and low seat position help keep paddlers upright through white water, while the tough PVC outer shell prevents puncturing. And if damages or malfunctions occur, Aire offers a generous 10-year warranty. The Outfitter I features a rockered bow and flat bottom to enhance maneuverability to navigate rough and rocky waters. Despite being under 10 feet in length, the kayak features plenty of storage, including seat pockets and 12 sets of cargo loops to help secure gear and supplies for lengthier trips. Between adventures, the Outfitter I can be deflated and folded to a compact size of 18 x 18 x 14 inches. 

Dimensions: 9.6 x 3.3 feet | Packed weight: 36 pounds | Inflation method: Pump (not included)

Tips for Buying an Inflatable Kayak

Consider what types of water bodies you’ll be paddling

Like traditional kayaks, inflatable models are designed with specific types of water bodies and uses in mind. Inflatable kayaks are less durable than hard-shell varieties, so it’s especially important to consider how the materials will hold up if you’re paddling in rapids. Besides highly specialized models like the Aire Outfitter I (our whitewater pick), most inflatable kayaks are intended for more recreational use. As Alex Randall, CEO at Revel Sports, puts it, “inflatable kayaks are best for use on lakes and rivers, as they are more difficult to maneuver than traditional kayaks and not as powerful in terms of speed.”

Invest based on your anticipated amount of use

Factoring in the cost with the frequency you’ll use your inflatable kayak is a useful approach. For example, if you’re a city-dweller looking for the occasional weekend paddle, a simpler but more portable model may be of greater value than performance specs. More regular paddlers may want to invest in a more durable model for long-lasting use.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do I patch an inflatable kayak?

    First, locate the hole. Running water over the kayak’s surface is a useful tactic, as air will bubble out from the leak. Once located, clean and dry the surface area around the hole. Many inflatable kayaks come with a repair kit, which includes patches. Ensure the patch is big enough to span well beyond the leak before applying. Apply the patch to the dried surface around the hole, smooth the edges, and wait a half hour before using the kayak. 

  • How should I care for my inflatable kayak?

    There’s more to caring for your inflatable kayak than just patching holes. Randall emphasizes the importance of using protective sprays and storing in a cool and shaded location to “avoid sun exposure, as UV rays will damage a kayak’s outer shell.” Properly cleaning and drying inflatable kayaks is essential for longer-term storage to avoid mold and mildew buildup. As Randall points out, “the only time your kayak should get wet is when you are in it.” 

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Kevin Brouillard is a contributing writer at T+L, specializing in outdoor gear and apparel.  For this article, he researched a number of inflatable kayaks to find the most dependable options available, and also interviewed water sports experts to find out exactly what kayakers should look for when selecting an inflatable model. The result is a comprehensive list of the best inflatable kayaks worth looking into before your next adventure on the water.

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